by Louise M. Felsher, CMM, CMP | September 01, 2007

Working with celebrities can be intimidating, whether you are hiring a famous individual to be a spokesperson at a product launch or an A-list band to dazzle attendees at a conference.

Following are tips for making sure you find the right celeb for your event, plus some pointers on how to work with your star.

Keep It Impersonal

One of the most common mistakes meeting professionals make when hiring talent is they impose their own personal taste or, perhaps more egregiously, their moral/political values on their attendees and/or clients. In all cases, the entertainment should be relevant to the goals and objectives of your program -- and appealing to your client and/or audience.

Similarly, it is the planner’s responsibility to guide the client and/or top management toward the right celebrity for the function. Aiming to please the CEO alone is downright dangerous, unless her preference coincides with the tastes of your audience members.

While the hottest band, comic or actor might be a tremendous draw, be prepared to defend both the logic and the ROI of your decision to the accounting department.

Crowd Pleasers

On the other hand, planners often try to play it safe by trying to find a celebrity who will please everyone. Rest assured, it can’t be done. Therefore, don’t shy away from the acts or individuals you know will support and illuminate your message, even if you’re not sure everyone who will be in attendance is a fan.

Finding Them

The process of securing a celebrity depends on the type of entertainment you’re seeking and the purpose of the event. Specialized speakers bureaus are great for finding big-name motivational presenters and often represent a number of celebrities.

Or, go directly to the source; most stars have websites that list contact information for their representatives.

Celebrity Contracts

Contract details should include specifics about the performance, including meet-and-greet times, duration of the act, and any special content that is encouraged (for example, a mention of your new product launch) or forbidden (off-color language or jokes about your bald CFO).

Virtually all celebrity contracts contain a rider -- an addendum also known as the “list of demands.” (Check out to view some outrageous riders.)

Are riders negotiable? That depends, in part, on how famous your celebrity is, but generally the answer is yes. Keep in mind that the management layers between you and the celebrity can be thick and virtually impenetrable. Often, their management will ask for things about which the star couldn’t care less.

Extra Tips

Other important details:

Make sure you know how the celebrity prefers to be greeted and escorted from waiting room to the venue or stage. Do you have the right accommodations to meet those expectations? How does the star prefer to be addressed? Will handlers or an entourage accompany the celebrity?

Discuss security needs. Really big-name celebrities -- not just royally -- will require buyouts of the floors above and below for security purposes. Even if they bring their own security, you might need to arrange additional measures, including bomb-sniffing dogs in key areas, for example, particularly if the celebrity is a politician.

Keep your head. Remember that celebrities are, first and foremost, real people. In our culture, we tend to view them as superhuman. However, most will respond more favorably to sincere, knowledgeable professionals than gushing groupies.